DOBSON — Members of the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival’s NC Shakes once again voiced “Oh what fools these mortals be” with an energetic, 60-minute performance of William Shakespeare’s “AMidsummer Night’s Dream” on Wednesday at Surry Community College.
The comedy was part of the festival’s Shakespeare to Go! program. The story involves multiple story lines involving two young couples in an enchanted wood with mischievous faeries while a group of bad actors rehearse an even worse play. The production was sponsored by Surry Community’s global education, cultural diversity and cultural events committees.
“Every student needs to understand what’s going on internationally,” said SCC Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness Anne Hennis. “So much of competition they will face in their careers involves local and global issues. Our number one goal is to provide ways to promote and enhance diversity at Surry Community.”
She said the school’s student population continues to become more diverse and the faculty feel strongly about the importance of providing events like the play. Hennis said English professors integrate the production with work in the classroom and students from the Early College attend the cultural events.
“It’s good for our students to have cultural exposure to events like this,” added Hennis. “Community members are also invited to come free of charge. We really want to provide opportunities for the community and students.”
The effort to reach out to more different audiences mirrors the growth of the Shakespeare festival itself, which was started in 1977 as a local theater company and now travels the state performing. Cast spokesperson Courtney McClellan, a Nashville, Tenn., native, says this remains a strong factor in cast selection with an emphasis on actors who enjoy bringing the classics to students of all ages.
McClellan explained the casts for every production are different each season. Actors are assigned parts (character roles) and must have lines memorized before the first day of rehearsals.
“The shows are not set in stone every time,” said McClellan. “We get three weeks before the start of our contracts. Director Michael Huie assigns the parts and some basic character clues. The rest is based on simply playing off of and with the other actors. We tweak it until we get it just the way we like it and then we set it before touring.”
When asked if actors, like those in many other trades, find their numbers dwindling McClellan is adamant the diversity of social medias simply is changing the profession.
“Our bread and butter remains the stage in front of an audience. That is still the best way of getting a taste for the work we do for anyone interested in theater professionally or as a hobby,” said McClellan. “It is also another tool we can give educators for their toolbox to teach classical literature. We in this role are like a live, pop-up storybook.”
She said many of the crossover medias which allow anyone to produce a video for the Internet open up more opportunities for acting.
“There’s more than one way of being an actor with the effect of all the new media,” said McClellan. “The versatility of the profession is rapidly changing. This (performing on stage) is still how we pay our bills. There’s lots of ways of being an actor without being on Broadway and you can still make a living. When I wake up in the morning I’m happy to pay my bills and have a script in my hand as I walk to a stage.” She said the profession of acting often leads to a lot of different paths.
While admitting part of the excitement of performing theater live is reacting to an audience and situations that arise (a lockdown drill was held during the show at SCC), McClellan and her fellow cast members maintain a focus on the business at hand.
“Our goal is to go out there and clearly tell the story,” summarized McClellan. “In one school where we did ‘Romeo and Juliet’ a student blurted out ‘Oh man, now they’re both dead’ at the death scene. When you can tell as an actor what you’ve done allows the audience to get it, that’s exciting for us.”
Wednesday’s production incorporated elements to add an almost early 1960s mod influence to the show with a nostalgic hippie twist on the minimalist set. Cast members portrayed different characters. Persons can obtain more information about the festival by calling 336-841-2273 or on the Internet at www.ncshakes.org.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.